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Beowulf tells the story of the heroic Beowulf and of his battles, first with the monster Grendel, then with Grendel's avenging mother, and finally with a dragon that threatens to devastate his homeland. Through its blend of myth and history, Beowulf vividly evokes a twilight world in which men and supernatural forces live side by side.
Michael Alexander recently retired from the chair of English Literature
at the University of St Andrews. For Penguin he has translated, The
Earliest English Poems, The Canterbury Tales: The First Fragment,
as well as a prose translation of Beowulf. His verse
translations of The Earliest English Poems and Beowulf
have sold over half a million copies in Penguin, for whom he has also
edited Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales: The First Fragment.
We have heard of the thriving of the throne of
Denmark, how the folk-kings ﬂourished in former days, how those
royal athelings earned that glory.
Was it not Scyld Sheﬁng that shook the halls, took
mead-benches, taught encroaching foes to fear him – who, found in
childhood, lacked clothing? Yet he lived and prospered, grew in
strength and stature under the heavens until the clans settled in the
sea-coasts neighbouring over the whale-road all must obey him and give
tribute. He was a good king!
A boy child was afterwards born to Scyld, a young child in
hall-yard, a hope for the people, sent them by God; the griefs long
endured were not unknown to Him, the harshness of years without a lord.
Therefore the life-bestowing Wielder of Glory granted them this
blessing. Through the northern lands the name of Beow, the son of
Scyld, sprang widely. For in youth an atheling should so use his
virtue, give with a free hand while in his father's house, that in old
age, when enemies gather, established friends shall stand by him and
serve him gladly. It is by glorious action that a man comes by honour
in any people.
At the hour shaped for him Scyld departed, the hero crossed into the
keeping of his Lord. They carried him out to the edge of the sea, his
sworn arms-fellows, as he had himself desired them while he wielded his
words, Warden of the Scyldings, beloved folk-founder; long had he ruled.
A boat with a ringed neck rode in the haven, icy, out-eager, the
atheling's vessel, and there they laid out their lord and master,
dealer of wound gold, in the waist of the ship, in majesty by the mast.
A mound of treasures from far countries was fetched aboard her, and it
is said that no boat was ever more bravely ﬁtted out with the weapons
of a warrior, war accoutrement, swords and body-armour; on his breast
were set treasures and trappings to travel with him on his far faring
into the ﬂood's sway.
This hoard was not less great than the gifts he had had from those
who at the outset had adventured him over seas, alone, a small child.
High over head they hoisted and ﬁxed a gold signum; gave him
to the ﬂood, let the seas take him, with sour hearts and mourning mood.
Men under heaven's shifting skies, though skilled in counsel, cannot
say surely who unshipped that cargo.
Then for a long space there lodged in the stronghold Beowulf the
Dane, dear king of his people, famed among nations – his father had
taken leave of the land – when late was born to him the lord Healfdene,
lifelong the ruler and war-feared patriarch of the proud Scyldings. He
next fathered four children that leapt into the world, this leader of
armies, Heorogar and Hrothgar and Halga the Good; and Ursula,
I have heard, who was Onela's queen, knew the bed's embrace of the
Then to Hrothgar was granted glory in battle, mastery of the ﬁeld;
so friends and kinsmen gladly obeyed him, and his band increased to a
great company. It came into his mind that he would command the
construction of a huge mead-hall, a house greater than men on earth
ever had heard of, and share the gifts God had bestowed on him upon its
ﬂoor with folk young and old – apart from public land and the persons
of slaves. Far and wide (as I heard) the work was given out in many a
tribe over middle earth, the making of the mead-hall. And, as men
reckon, the day of readiness dawned very soon for this greatest of
houses. Heorot he named it whose word ruled a wide empire. He
made good his boast, gave out rings, arm-bands at the banquet. Boldly
the hall reared its arched gables; unkindled the torch-ﬂame that turned
it to ashes. The time was not yet when the blood-feud should bring out
again sword-hatred in sworn kindred.
ISBN: 9780141194875 ISBN-10: 0141194871 Series: Popular Penguins Audience:
Number Of Pages: 116 Published: 28th June 2010 Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd Country of Publication: GB Dimensions (cm): 17.8 x 11.0
Weight (kg): 0.08
Edition Number: 1